diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 23, 2019

I've ventured outside six stations at the eastern end of the Jubilee line to see what's developing.

Canada Water

Tall towers with Canadian names - tick. Snazzy library circa 2011 - tick. Drab piazza attracting skateboarders and foodcarts - tick. But step further back and even more new places to live are still on their way. Decathlon successfully moved into new premises last year underneath a new apartment block because that's a more efficient use of land. Their former store has been embraced by an events company for a variety of temporary uses, currently an Oktoberfest, later a Christmas dinner & do. But all this is merely a precursor for the onslaught of the Canada Water Masterplan, a megadevelopment covering 53 acres currently occupied by the the former Daily Mail printing site, Surrey Quays shopping centre and its car park. These days an extensive car park near a key tube station stands no chance. The shopping centre becomes a "mixed-use town centre", Tesco gets replaced via "continuous trading", the cinema gets "reprovisioned", the number of car parking spaces gets halved, eight buildings of 18+ storeys arise, 3000 homes get built, Surrey Quays station gets a new entrance, a new leisure centre arrives in 2024 and the whole thing is currently scheduled to take until 2033. It's going to be immense, and it has barely started.

Canary Wharf

The towers around the Jubilee line station are long-established, but these days longevity stops nobody. The Canary Wharf behemoth is busy expanding into a whole new district to be called Wood Wharf, located across the water from the end of the tube station you don't normally walk out of. Five years ago the site was empty enough to hold food markets and the occasional ice-sculpting festival, whereas now it's all high-shooting towers and then some. The tallest is One Park Drive, a cigar-shaped luxury haven, beside which are more anodyne blocks each named [Nice Round Number] [Street Name]. Expect to become acquainted with Timber Quay, The Lanes, Harbord Square and South Dock Gardens, where you can greet a work colleague, clutch a coffee and eventually forget this was ever new. Tower Hamlets are getting a new school and a doctors' surgery out of it. On the opposite side of the station, overlooking the City, the latest almost-built tower is called Newfoundland. Residents of 636 private apartments can enjoy stunning panoramic views, at least until Riverside South is erected in front of them, although that's been on hold for the best part of a decade so they might get lucky. As yet there's no sign of Spire London at West India Dock, potentially Western Europe's tallest residential building but halted last year over a safety row. I could go on and on. Canary Wharf likely will.

North Greenwich

What's most obviously new outside the tube station is the Design District, currently a squished corral of concrete shells blocking the direct route to the cablecar. It's due to open next year and lockdown the peninsula's cultural mojo, or to use the official description "an eclectic ecosystem of creatives, ambitious start-ups and entrepreneurs". But that's peanuts compared to the next big circus which is the development of the central spine between West Parkside and Millennium Way, a full kilometresworth, most of which is currently car park. Planning application 19/2733/O provides for (deep breath) up to 5813 residential dwellings, accommodation for up to 500 students, a 350 room hotel, a sports centre, a theatre, mixed-use retail and "a minimum of 2000 AEG parking spaces (for the O2)". Kent won't turn out en masse to see CĂ©line Dion unless they have somewhere to park. Included in this zone of mass erasure is the existing tube station, which gets replaced not by the four-prong claw previously suggested but by something less ostentatiously profitable, while the new bus station will take up a lot less room once it's tucked beneath a multi-storey. If Knight Dragon eventually get their way, the Dome will be the only millennial structure left standing.

Canning Town

The end of Bow Creek continues to evolve from "nobody'd want to live here" to "how many flats can we cram in?". Vermillion came first around ten years ago, the red tower by the A13 flyover which snuffed out Rathbone Market. More recent is Hallsville Quarter, an identikit brick neighbourhood across the road from the bus station, whose lucky residents already have artisanal coffee and are just about to get their own underflat Morrisons. All the local cranes are now slotted into the gap between Silvertown Way and the DLR, constructing a long strip of apartment blocks that look exactly like you think they will. The highest liftshaft is currently at 25 floors with one more to go. This is the just-launched Brunel Street Works, which as former railway land was GLA-owned but will still only end up 35% affordable. Across the river the City Island development is almost complete, six years on, with the English National Ballet cocooned in the centre as cultural anchor. Although the original access path traced the river's edge, I was saddened to see that the final perimeter is a landscaped delivery road with limited creek access.

West Ham

Unlike the other stations on the Jubilee extension, West Ham has not yet become a vortex of redevelopment. But it's on its way. The station was built on the expectation that housing would eventually be built on the brownfield side facing the northbound Jubilee, so has passive protection for a link to the central footbridge. These 26 acres used to house a Parcelforce depot, and before that a Glass Works, and London's housing situation is now so desperate that 3800 homes are finally worth building. That said, the timeline on Stephenson Street's website cites March 2018 as the start of construction work but the site remains stubbornly untouched... an overgrown wasteland dotted with nothing more than strategically-located coloured cones. I'd take "June 2022 Phase 1 complete" with a ton of salt.


Stratford, of course, is the very epitome of redevelopment. But because it's now 14 years since the Olympics were announced, pretty much everything close to the station is already up... shiny towers, student cells and a massive triple-decker shopping centre half of East London frequents. But one large site remains, in the gap where platform 10a splits away from platform 11, chopped off at the northern end by the High Speed 1 trench. What's planned to erupt here is the MSG Sphere, a huge globular music'n'entertainment venue which'll exceed the Manchester Arena in capacity. The thought of Taylor Swift performing so close to a perfect transport hub has investors in orgasms, so much so that they've even agreed to throw in three pedestrian footbridges for free. But this 92m tall golfball will also have "a fully-programmable exterior that serves as a digital showcase for the venue, artists and partners", which basically gifts central Stratford an unavoidable advertising screen, because the 21st century is a horribly mercenary beast. Not quite everywhere, it seems, is getting flats.

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